A biennial herb, Anthriscus cerefolium, that is native to Eastern Europe and grows to a height of 30 cm (12 in). The plant has delicate, feathery leaves that bear a slight resemblance to parsley, albeit on a much smaller scale. Indeed, one of the common names for chervil is gourmet's parsley.
Chervil has a subtle flavour with very mild parsley overtones, mingled with a slight anise flavour, reminiscent of tarragon. As you would imagine with such a delicate flavour, chervil is most at home with subtle tastes, such as fish and eggs, particularly scrambled and poached eggs.
It is mostly found in French cuisine, where it is known as cerfeuil. Francophile cooks appreciate its hauntingly delicate flavour. It is an essential ingredient in the classic French herb mixture, fines herbes.
Chervil is fairly easy to grow from seed and thrives in a cool, shady position. Avoid planting in a hot climate and in very dry weather, which the plant will not tolerate.
Because of its extremely attractive appearance, chervil leaves are often used as a garnish on restaurant meals. When cooking with chervil, remember its subtle nature. The volatile oils, which provide the herb with its beguiling anise flavour, are the first to be driven off by heat. Always add chervil to a dish in the last few minutes of cooking.